Backstreet bargains NZ

Last year when we visited NZ, I had this retailer earmarked for a visit. I didn’t get to the store until our December visit.

Backstreet Bargain fabrics near The Base at Hamilton was an absolute scream – in a great way. The store is in a light industrial area, which is always intriguing. I always think that there will be some unusual finds when you have to go through racks. In my case I have to use a ladder to see what most people can glance at.

Their staff are so fun. Honestly if I was a local, this would be my go-to store for all sorts of sewing.

They have knits and wovens for casual clothes, winter performance clothing, warm coats, affordable evening wear, and prints with indigenous designs.

I kinda went nuts with my purchases.


Tropical leaves

When the print is so fabulous, using a simple design like New Look 6013 is my ‘go-to’ for this print from Minerva crafts.


New Look 6013 has simple darts at the front and the back with raglan sleeves. I’ve made this pattern before and added a full bust adjustment for when I get bigger in the Winter. My weight changes a lot but I still prefer to wear somewhat fitted dresses.


This crepe (John Kaldor Layered Leaves Print Crepe Dress Fabric – Lime and Black) feels lovely. It drapes well and washes easily. I chose this lime and black colourway because of the black background but there’s enough white in the print to still make it a Summer style.


You’ll find that the softness and drapey properties of this fabric makes it easy to line and hem. I still love to use John Kaldor fabrics when I can because they’re such classic prints.

I did go a bit ‘couture’ with this version. What I mean by ‘couture’ is I interlined the dress bodice and finished the hem hand sewing the hem to the interlining. Crepe is very accommodating to any shape and any level of sewing expertise you have. When you first start sewing crepe is easy to mould into shape and you get a good result with very little stress.


This dress is going to get a lot of wear because of its colourway, print and fabric structure so I chose to use a cotton poplin for the dress bodices.


In the Summer we have a lot of humidity in Sydney. Right now our weather is very Singapore like. This lasts for at least 2 months here so I specifically chose this fabrics and the interlining to make sure this dress helps me deal with our searing Summer conditions.


Couture Finish:

So I’ve raved about couture techniques so why not show you what I mean.


The Bodice: When I line any garment I need wiggle room but I also want a great finish. Wiggle room means the garment fits well but doesn’t constrict my movements. This crazy photo shows I’m hamming it up while waiting for the train. Yes there’s no one on the platform so I could show you how this dress fits but has the room to be a bit crazy in a very measured way.

On the inside, I’ve interlined this crepe and still used the facing pieces for a clean finish.


By sewing just the bust darts on the interlining, the side seams of the front bodice still matches the side seams of the back bodice. You don’t need to be a mathematician to figure this out and thankfully while maths isn’t my strong point, you should always measure twice, cut once.

Having more than one tape measure and measure slides keeps your sewing accurate. Having an unpicker to save the day is a good thing too.


The Hem: The interlining poplin is study and it is about the same weight as the crepe fabric. Keeping the interlining lighter than the fashion fabric is your goal, so your final garment isn’t heavier than you’d expect. All bets are off when it’s an evening gown. Evening gowns are another story.


The interlining is cut at the hem length and I’ve left this fabric unfinished. Hang on I’ll tell you why.

The fashion fabric is then folded up onto the interlining and then hand sewn onto the interlining. So…there’s no need to hem/finish the interlining fabric. See. It’s all good.


The sleeves: I decided not to interline the sleeves. I probably should interline the sleeves if the fabric had less drape. On this dress the sleeves are look soft and that’s what I wanted on this version of New Look 6013.

Thank you Minerva Crafts for stocking John Kaldor fabrics.



A kiwi fabric visit

We spent 2 weeks in NZ (North Island) and I was able to visit a few fabric retailers along the way. That’s what I love about travelling.

My first fabric stop was at Greytown, on the road to Carterton. Most people visit this area to wine tour around Martinborough. I don’t blame them. It’s a great winery day.

miss maudeOk back to the fabric stop in Greytown – Miss Maude Fabric and Sewing store

Greytown is very refined, pretty and has many great stores with local produce. I could go on and on about this lovely town.

I’ve been following Miss Maude Fabric Store Instagram account for ages. Their fabrics are beautiful and well selected. So well selected that the day I visited the store, an online shopper beat me to a beautiful green cotton fabric, so I managed to buy the remnant.

Online shopping really is the way to go sometimes. Their online prices are by 1/4 metre. Their online sales are great and they have good shipping deals for Kiwis and Aussies. They ship globally.

What was impressive was their pattern stocks. They sell both printed patterns and pdf patterns. Locals have the advantage of the classes they hold. There was a Kelly Anorak on show made by a local 16 year old. The anorak was reversible! Isn’t that just so clever.

miss maude fabrics

I bought 2 fabrics and have washed them ready to make into something…one day. I’ll be keeping Miss Maude’s Fabric Store on my insta feed. Thanks Emma and your lovely team.

More kiwi fabric stories to come…

Raincoat sparkle

I’ve always enjoyed seeing how raincoats can sparkle and look amazing. I’ve used Jalie City Coat pattern for this raincoat success.

Do you remember back at school the smell of plastic yellow raincoats? This is one of my distinct school day memories and I’m so glad this fabric has raised the bar on stylish and affordable raincoats.

This Raincoat Fabric comes in 4 colourways and I was so tempted to make the black version but I chose the purple colour. It’s amazing in real life.

The Fabric

This fabric is bonded so the plastic side is the ‘right’ side and the ‘wrong side is woven. If you’re not watching the fabric as you sew it, it can move quite a bit.

The plastic side tends to stick to itself so once you’ve cut out the pattern pieces, make sure you take the time to release the pieces from each other. There were a few times I thought I’d lost some pattern pieces but they were all there. I just had to look at them closer.

One thing I discovered is that you can lightly iron this fabric on the wrong side as long as you use a cotton ironing cloth. This will stop the plastic from melting. I did a spot of ironing on some of the seams but I used my ironing cloth and ironing ham. I only ironed each seam for no more than 5 seconds. That was enough time to avoid ruining the fabric.

Later on I realised that using an iron-on interfacing was not going to work to reinforce the front seams for buttons and buttonholes. I used a wide strip of black woven fabric from my stash to give the front of the raincoat stability. It worked a dream and you can use any fabric because it won’t be seen.

Seam Finishes

I mulled about this before I started working on this project. If the fabric had only been plastic, I may have used bias tape to finish the seams.

The base fabric is soft, so the fabric edges are also soft and do not fray so I’ve left them in their raw state. You can see how I’ve tested out using the overlocker to finish these seams. This really didn’t make much difference to the wear of the fabric and overlocking added more weight to the seam that I didn’t like.

The other finish that I would have loved to use on this coat was topstitching. Because this is a ‘raincoat’ I decide to avoid adding more holes in the fabric that would need to be sealed later.

What I am investigating at the moment is using a light-weight sealant on these seams and until I find a decent one, this will be a faux-raincoat.

Lining the Coat

I chose to use Jalie’s City Coat pattern because it’s unlined.


There is enough weight in this raincoat that it sits nicely as a coat and I’ve made it two sizes bigger than I needed so there is some airflow when I wear it.

This pattern has a hood option so I will make the hood later and attach it using buttons on the outside of the collarband.

Right now I love the existing collar.

Will I really wear this coat?

Yes. Especially when it might rain. Once I figure out how to seal the seams this will be a cool looking faux raincoat. I know I have a time of Odicoat in my sewing room.

And that’s the second part of the tale of two coats.

Thanks Minerva!

It’s in the writing

Using this double border fabric from Minervadotcom was a great way to start off the New Year.


New Look 6468 has a few relaxed style jumpsuits and dresses and this cotton broadcloth really stood up to the test of being worn on a 45C afternoon here in Sydney. We’ve had many bushfires and the air here is hazy on most days.

Image result for new look 6468

As soon as I received this fabric I gave it a wash and within 30 minutes it was dry and it looked like it had been ironed too. That’s how hot it is at the moment.


The fabric is black and grey so when I chose the buttons, I filtered the buttons to 2 hole. Minerva website gives you that search ability. The pattern suggests 1.3cm buttons so the everyday basic buttons were the logical choice.

The cool thing about these buttons is they have a greyness to them in the centre so I was really chuffed when I received these in my package for this month.

I always look forward to the packages that the team at Minerva sends me.

Now I already owned New Look 6468 because I collect jumpsuit patterns.

This month’s choice was to simply make a nice casual dress to get me through the hot Summer temps we’ll have to get through for the next 3 months.


The fabric:

Here’s the good aspect of using a double border print. You can use both sides and get more use out of the fabric.

This print on one side of the fabric is further from the selvedge that the other side of the fabric.


I used this to my advantage. The skirt pattern used for this dress is the same front and back.

Now I have a prominent backside so I need to lower the back skirt. Do you see where I’m heading to?

The front skirt was cut along the print that was close to the selvedge.

The back skirt piece was cut along the print side that was further from the selvedge.


And voila. The skirt pieces didn’t waste too much of the print but worked for my body shape. 

That’s a win in my books. 

The other good part about this fabric is that it’s very affordable so really, you can get a lot of good used from this fabric. 

It does create a really neat little black day dress to wear wherever you need to be. Heels or flat shoes – this dress works well with both. 

The other good thing about this fabric is that it’s cotton so it breathes well. Yes it crushes and creases are easy to see in light colour fabric so the black base of this fabric is much handier for my liking. 

If you are using a hot iron, use a pressing cloth to avoid iron on the grey print. The print will melt onto your iron so just be careful.


The pattern adjustments:

The basic skirt length for me is 19” or 48cm. I remember 19 inches as my rule of thumb.

Because this dress has to sit away from my body, because it’s so hot, I chose to make size 12 with no pattern grading. When it’s really hot, I find the fabric has to breath and not stick to me. I’m so loving this fabric choice.

I did remove 1.5cm from the bodice length between the shoulders and bust point. This reduced the gaping that tends to happen if I don’t shorten this length. This adjustment has also ensured the armhole sits close to my body so there’s no side gaping.

When I looked at the pattern drawings I wondered what was used at the waist. The waist has elastic in the seams. I used an elastic from a previous order to finish off the waistline.

I’ve hand sewn the hem and hand sewn on the buttons.


The button loop finish is a fitting feature for this print.

I also wasn’t sure about adding the pockets on the bodice so I created them anyway to see how I feel about them. They look ok so I’ll leave them there.


Did I say that the skirt has pockets? Well. The skirt has pockets and they’re super easy to sew into the skirt. 

Overall I stuck to the instructions for view D of New Look 6468 and I’ll make this again.


This pattern was better that I expected. When I reread the fabric I chose was ‘broadcloth’ I did a double take with this pattern. 

Now I’m really happy with this dress and the detailing within this pattern.

I hope everyone has a great 2020. It’s a new decade and I hope you get to sew all the things you have in mind.


Relaxing into Christmas

We’re having a different Christmas experience this year and that means my wardrobe makes are relaxed and chilled. What I mean is we’ll be travelling and being casual so there are no formal occasions to dress for. Enter Style Arc Avery tunic top using two light weight knits.

Minerva sells multi size Style Arc patterns and I happened to have bought Style Arc’s Avery Tunic pattern last year when I visited Style Arc HQ. They’re a lovely team who love seeing what we, their consumers, make with their multitude of designs. I bought size 8 and I did no adjustments to this pattern.

Strange hearing that I made no adjustments on any pattern but this month my tunic goal was make a top that I could comfortably wear on a 4 hour plane journey or wear in the car for ‘road trip’.

I chose these fabrics because their dark but the print is summer beach worthy. We will be hitting the beach a few times this month so I chose this tropical print for the contrast.

Travelling long distances is constrictive and I had to choose fabrics that breath well. These knits do just that.

Travelling long distances means I need styles that give me room to move but have some fit elements to them.

This tunic top isn’t fitted across the body but it fits really well at the neckline, shoulders and bust. From the bust down, this shape is loose but doesn’t swallow me up.

After asking a few sewing people in Instagram, I used this Tropical Print Stretch Jersey Fabric for the front bodice and the sleeves. I had fun trying to decide what floral motif would be placed centre front so of course, I chose the hibiscus flower. The leaf prints look nicely balanced at the shoulders so I was really chuffed with this outcome.

Style Arc has designed this tunic to be used for both knits and woven fabrics. I ordered the zipper. It’s really pretty but I didn’t need to use it. I’ll have to use this on another Minerva project soon. This zipper is too pretty to leave it in my zipper stash.

Honestly this is an easy pattern to cut out and make in 1 afternoon especially if you’re using knit fabrics.

The shaped hem is uneven and it’s very different to the hems I’ve made it the past. It’s refreshing and a bit challenging because this is a new style shape that I need to practice and get right.

I did need to use lots of pins to get the stitching right. The clever part with this hem is that it provides a good amount of weight when you’re using a lightweight knit.

Thanks Minerva for supplying me with the pattern and fabrics to make this top to celebrate Christmas in this year.

Camimade patterns

Earlier this year I met Camille of Camimade patterns.

‘Camimade is an independent sewing pattern company, designing minimalist and timeless sewing patterns, on the lookout for a more contemporary sewing.’

Clairesews had organised a fabric shopping day at Goldhawk Road while I was visiting London and that’s where I met Camille. Thank you Claire for a wonderful day/s as we did venture to the V&A Museum the following week.

Back to the Camimade story.

Cami was looking at gorgeous silks as we were fabric shopping and it was only after I started to follow her instagram account that I saw how lovely her designs were. Then there was the call out to pattern test so I agreed to pattern test.

Feuillage: shirt and shirt dress pattern:

This is a relaxed style pattern and it’s versatile – shirt or shirt dress option.


Here’s the shirt flat lay style.


What you can clearly see is the finishing details of the split sleeve. During testing Cami made some adjustments to the pattern and it now fits together easily.


I made both the feulliage shirt to go with the Ecorce pants. Go to Cami’s website to see her beautiful photos. She looks stunning in these pieces.


My photos are my usual look. Nothing special but super comfortable.

The front vents in the shirt version I made are best left closed. That’s my personal preference. When I wore this shirt with the front vents open I didn’t feel comfortable. Now I do with the front vents closed. I added a strip of black powermesh to sew these vents shut. Powermesh doesn’t fray so it was a good fabric choice.

Ecorce: Trousers and capri pants

This pattern is high waist and semi-fitted – perfect for humid Summer days in Sydney.


These are super easy to wear and a bit bigger than I should wear because I lost some weight at the time. The winter weight loss was intentional.


Oh my goodness the back vent at the hem is awesome. Maybe because it makes these super easy to wear from a practical point of view.


The fabric I’ve used is very stiff hence the bulges you can see on this side view photo. This was a test version and I wear these pants for housework. The wearable toiles do get used.

What I love about these trousers are the leg shaping. There is room for my cyclist thighs to I don’t have to make any further fit adjustments.


The usual pattern adjustments I did make was to lower the back crotch and shorten the front crotch. That’s just how I’m shaped and I’m so pleased I learnt how to make these changes.

Once I tried these on again after losing a few kilos, I unpicked the waistband and easily took out the fullness that I had gained during the Winter months. That’s what made me realise this is a good pants pattern to have when your weight fluctuates so much. The seamlines are great for sizing this pattern up or down.